07 March 2014

Pride in West Virginia!: Take Me Home, Country Roads (Just Kidding)

On this glorious neo-spring day, the West Virginia Legislature has adopted John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” as an official song of the State of West Virginia.  This has gotten so much feel-good publicity, a level that we haven’t seen for a while.

Um, OK.

Hey, it’s a good song.  Pitched a little lower than written, I can sort of sing it.  Nice tune.  Mostly understandable lyrics, although the “Mountain mama” part is a little strange.

And the “misty taste of moonshine”?  Have you ever tasted REAL moonshine, i.e., liquor made in an outdoor still and aged about 30 minutes?  Misty?  Nope.  Acrid.  Choking. Caustic.  They don’t call it inTOXICation for nothing.

Oh, and the two geographical features mentioned in the song, the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah River?  Both are almost entirely in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Entirely different state ever since 1863.

West Virginia is beautiful, at least to me.  I find it strange when I’m in different sort of terrain and flora.  But there is a certain complacency about the “Almost Heaven” that is misleading or, at least, incomplete.

The Gallup-Healthways 2013 State of American Well-being Index placed West Virginia 50th among the states in life evaluation, environmental health, physical health and healthy behaviors and 14th in work environment.

Last year, West Virginia scored 47th in obesity, 49th in smoking and 50th in diabetes.

All the numbers are not bad.  In the last five years, the number of children in poverty has gone from 24% to 19%.  (That’s still 19% too damn many, and no, “The poor will be with you always” quote from Jesus of Nazareth has nothing to do with saying poverty is ok.  That is the most obnoxious and self-serving misinterpretation of the Bible that I  know of.)

The cost of living in West Virginia is very favorable.  What $100 buys you to live in America on average takes only $86 in West Virginia.

We are 28th in high school dropouts, with a rate of 13.6%.  There, too, that’s 13.6% too high - 80% of children who drop out of school will be put in jail or prison during their lives.

OK, the song bill is harmless and evades Judge Gideon Tucker’s curse, "No man's life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session."

But there are more important things to do and a whoop-de-doo over something silly like this is embarassing.

In life, in government, in work, we have to keep our eye on the ball.

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